New England Odyssey XIX

Author: Cody Hasselbring

Tags: North America, Soul Search, USA

          With the turn of a key, our sails unfurled.  Our vessel - the Kingsmen charter bus – would soon brave the vast expanse of the Eastern Seaboard.  We shuffled aboard in anticipation, unsure of what lay ahead.  We had heard about the New England Odyssey from those who had gone before us, but every sea has its own waves, its own winds, and its own sights to see.  So we bade farewell to our familiar homes and set sail for a journey into American history and American literature.  The weeklong trip was fast-paced and saturated, with little time to even think.  Yet now, looking back I consider how history and literature came alive, revealing to me that firm beliefs can change our school, and perhaps even change our nation.

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          We can often grow calloused to the redundant stories of our Nation’s birth, to the point where the past becomes a dead rather than breathing member of the present.  But on our Odyssey, history was resuscitated into a tangible, relatable being.  In Philadelphia my imagination ran wild: What must it have looked like? All the legendary colonial leaders, day in and day out, going through routine just like me?  They sat in this pew and prayed.  They walked down this alley and conversed with friends.  They sat in these chairs and worried about a cause that may not have succeeded.  Or as I gazed at Old North Bridge where one of the first shots of the Revolutionary War was fired, I could almost see the artillery exploding and hear the bullets whizzing by at frightening velocity.  I wonder now if I hold beliefs so unmoving that I would be willing to stand before an army, dig my heels into the dirt below me, and hold my values deep inside of me; could I dare to accomplish something for the lasting good despite the overwhelming size of the task?

          Literature, too, was awakened from its academic slumber along the way.  Courageous men and women with bold ideas in speech and writing saturated our journey.  We traversed the woods of Henry David Thoreau and listened to the rustling leaves and gentle waves he so often wrote of, all the while, considering how brave he was to remove himself from the unrelenting noise of the crowd.  And we stood atop the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King Junior declared before a nation of racist doctrine that he would not settle for discrimination on any terms because he had an uncompromising dream large enough to fill the National Mall.  We found ourselves solemnly still before the Salem Witch Memorial, considering the scenes from Arthur Miller’s The Crucible when innocent men and women refused to surrender their integrity to the vice-grip of unjust fear.  Even as teenagers we asked ourselves: “Would we be the daring few who would step out for what we value?  Would we be those whose morals are stronger than our reputations?” 

          Now, as I look back and reflect on the journey, I consider how we, like our founding fathers, can shape our school as they shaped the nation.  Can we be the few seniors who refuse to mistreat underclassmen and fight prejudice like the father of Civil Rights?  Can we diligently work toward the future – just as our nation’s legendary founders?  Because of this journey, can our eyes see deeper than the shallow pursuits of material possessions and acclaim?  The task set before us is to carry on the legacy: to be the audacious, the daring few.

 

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